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The (Not-So) Secret Sauce to Intelligent Buildings

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Arthur Alter

With all the advancements of technology today – quantum computing, blockchains, robotics, and, let’s not forget, smart baby diapers – the matter of making a building both intelligent and sustainable should be trivial. At this point in the smart building evolution, there are no breakthroughs required; the technology is there and has been for decades.

And yet, making all building systems operate together in an efficient manner is still a major challenge. Exponentially so if you operate a portfolio with accumulated controls systems from multiple vendors at various stages of their useful life. Layer in the especially modern use cases of analyzing building system data alongside occupant experience technologies and interoperability with business systems, and you’ve got new applications added onto antiquated methods of operation.

While the technology may exist to advance energy efficiency in buildings, in all honesty, the industry is a mess. It reminds me of a common situation that transpires in our playroom.

My six-year-old begins by dumping out his LEGO Treehouse set. He builds it up to the first balcony and then notices his Mega Bloks and gets an idea for a castle. After completing the spire, he moves on to the Magna Tiles, where he builds an ADU for when grandma visits. Now he wants to build a walkway between the three structures, but what does he use? There is no LEGO Mega Blok Magna Tile connector.

We could grab the Duct tape, super glue, or drill to cobble something together, but our pieces may never be the same after that, and we likely won’t have the expertise needed to make it structurally sound anyway. So grandma, played here by a plastic triceratops, has to walk across treacherous pointy object wreckage to explore each structure individually.

Buildings today are like that – a LEGO set here, some Mega Bloks there, Magna Tiles over here with a bunch of junk in between. And there are very few options for a connector that can bridge them all. 

Why Buildings IOT is uniquely positioned to make buildings work for all

The roots of Buildings IOT go back to 1958 when the business was a controls reseller that later grew into one of the largest distributors of controls products on the West Coast. During this time, the industry saw massive technological advancements as traditional pneumatic controls were gradually replaced by the direct digital controls that have laid the foundation for the data-driven work we’re doing today.

As a distributor, the company gained intimate knowledge of these new products – how to spec and install them, what data they collected, and what use cases they satisfied for which customer segments.

As DDC controls gained footing and soon became the standard for new construction and modern retrofits, employees who would go on to spin off Buildings IOT began to experiment with software development. It started with drivers to aid distribution customers in their custom integration projects. It later expanded into an analytics engine acquired by Honeywell’s Tridium business and is being deployed today as Niagara Analytics.


Advancements in controls have necessitated a higher-level service provider in the construction delivery process, and with that, the Master Systems Integrator has risen in prominence over the last decade. Given its history with controls in all their forms, Buildings IOT has been leading this emerging industry with longstanding partnerships with some of the country’s largest enterprises.

In our work architecting and integrating systems that achieve interoperability with modern business systems, it quickly became apparent there were very few solutions available to us to make vast, diverse sets of building data available in a structured and easily accessible way. That’s when the cloud-hosted integrated building management system we have today began to take shape.

The Platform

For the last four years, Buildings IOT has been meticulously crafting software tools to solve issues that have been haunting the BMS industry for decades.

Problem: Device and point naming, multiple tagging standards. Costly and timely to execute.
Solution: The Ontology Alignment Project (OAP) was developed to unify and extend the two main standards: Project Haystack and Brick Schema to enable uniform tagging and establish object relationships. 
Delivered through IOT Jetstream, Buildings IOT leverages machine learning to cut the on-site execution effort by 25%.

Problem: Secure access to normalized building data
Solution: IOT Jetstream is a true IDL (Independent Data Layer) built for buildings. Complete with a building equipment schema and utilizing the groundbreaking API technology GraphQL, IOT Jetstream brings all of your building systems, devices, spaces, and business application data together into a common and easy-to-query API.

Problem: Analytics too simple, too complex, or meaningless
Solution: Prescriptive analytics delivered via onPoint explain issues in plain language and offer a reasonable first step for corrective action. Ranked by severity across your portfolio and connected to embedded Work Request functionality, onPoint Insights help users prioritize action for integrated systems across their portfolio.

Problem: All building systems in one place for any users
Solution: An integrated building management system that goes beyond HVAC to bring in lighting, electrical, plumbing, and even elevators if you wish. onPoint brings all systems and their data to a unified user interface for unlimited users.

Problem: Managing a building takes too much time, effort, and expertise
Solution: onPoint Automate delivers data-driven scheduling (optimum start/stop) and peak demand optimization at the push of a button, so building managers can focus on the rest of their to-do list.

Now to the Secret Sauce: there isn’t one. We did not invent a new building AI or a new IoT sensor. We apply decades of knowledge on building systems to solve the oldest building problems using the best technologies available today. 

Have a LEGO problem? Give us a call.

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